When dreaming of the perfect Caribbean destination, two island destinations that often top the list are Jamaica and The Bahamas. But which is best? Is Jamaica better than Bahamas, or is Bahamas better than Jamaica? How do you choose?
Either destination is sure to deliver an amazing experience, but there are some differences between The Bahamas and Jamaica to consider. This breakdown of Jamaica vs. Bahamas will give you a better idea of what each island has to offer, helping make that difficult choice a little easier.
Jamaica vs. Bahamas Quick Take
- The Bahamas is closer to the U.S. and somewhat easier to travel to.
- Jamaica is more affordable on average.
- The Bahamas has the best beaches.
- Jamaica has a mountainous interior for adventures.
Jamaica vs. Bahamas: Overview
Jamaica is a single large island. While it has beautiful beaches and clear access to the ocean, there’s more to this island. The inland of Jamaica is filled with mountains to explore and adventures like river rafting, ziplining, and hiking.
The Bahamas, on the other hand, is an island-hopping dream! This Caribbean country is actually made up of 700 different islands so there are nearly endless beach options. Plus, The Bahamas is a top destination for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Jamaica vs. Bahamas: Location & Accessibility
The Bahamas is located closer to the U.S. than Jamaica. It’s just 180 miles from Miami, Florida, so flights from the U.S. are short. The capital city, Nassau, has a large international airport that receives the majority of flights, and there are plenty to choose from. You can find direct flights to the Out Islands through a smaller airport.
And you can also take a 2.5-hour ferry ride from Fort Lauderdale to Freeport. This travel option only costs about $100, so it’s an economical way to travel, plus it’s scenic.
Jamaica sits 500 miles south of The Bahamas, so traveling there takes a bit longer. However, because it is the largest island in the Caribbean, there are plenty of options for inbound flights from both the U.S. and Europe.
Jamaica vs. Bahamas: When to Visit
When planning a trip to Jamaica, you’ll want to pay attention to both peak season and hurricane season. Peak season in Jamaica is between December and April. These months have milder temperatures, usually between the low 70s and mid 80s. This incredible weather brings in larger crowds and can cause prices to spike.
The island is also in the hurricane belt, so hurricane season (June to November) is not the best time to travel there. Jamaica also experiences two rainy seasons: one from May to June and a second from September to November.
The Bahamas is a good option nearly year round. The Bahamian islands have warm weather and about 340 days of sunshine each year, so it’s always a good day for the beach. Summer can bring higher temperatures and more humidity; May to October is the wettest time of the year. And, of course, watch out for hurricane season between June and November.
If you’re looking for the best time to visit The Bahamas, you’ll want to shoot for March and April. The temperatures around the islands are milder, and there are usually fewer travelers. Just remember, The Bahamas are a very popular spring break destination. If you’re looking for quiet and relaxation, you’ll want to stay away during those weeks.
Jamaica vs. Bahamas: Accommodations and Cost
Jamaica is widely considered one of the most affordable islands in the Caribbean. Travelers can find plenty of budget-friendly lodging, as well as a ton of all-inclusive resorts like the adults-only Sandals and Secrets resorts or the family-friendly Beaches resorts.
Jamaica also has relatively inexpensive food options. Of course, all-inclusive resorts include food, but if you’re looking to taste a bit more of the local flavor, you’re in luck. Food costs in Jamaica are almost 20% cheaper than similar options in The Bahamas.
The Bahamas is more expensive overall, with fewer options for budget-friendly places to stay. While the cost is higher, the accommodations tend to be more luxurious and upscale. The Bahamas also has all-inclusive resorts, like Sandals, as well as boutique resorts like Small Hope Bay Lodge.
Jamaica vs. Bahamas: Beaches
Both Jamaica and Bahamas offer wonderful beaches for visitors to enjoy. But not all beaches are created the same. Here are some things to consider when choosing between Jamaica and The Bahamas.
With over 635 miles of coastline, Jamaica has no shortage of sand. It offers some beautiful and iconic beaches, such as Frenchman’s Cove, Doctor’s Cove Beach, and Seven Mile Beach (often considered the most beautiful beach in all of Jamaica). These beaches are very tourist friendly and offer tons of amenities, so you can stay all day. They are also often crowded.
The Bahamas offers even more choices, with 3,542 miles of coastline. You can spend weeks trying to experience all the options. These thousands of miles of coastline feature powdery, white sand beaches, great for relaxing and enjoying a lazy day.
Plus, the waters around The Bahamas are very calm, making it good for paddleboarding, snorkeling, and swimming, and are very clear, perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving.
Jamaica vs. Bahamas: Things to Do
The Bahamas has fascinating history and interesting architecture. Take the time to visit Parliament Square, Christ Church Cathedral, and the three British forts from the early 1700s.
Plus, visitors can spend some time in Lucayan National Park, which holds one of the largest cave systems. But that’s not all! You can find dozens of natural excursions, including mangrove forests, caves, kayaking in the national park, or visiting Leon Levy Native Plant Reserve on a 25-acre sanctuary on Eleuthera.
Perhaps the biggest benefit to The Bahamas vs. Jamaica is the chance to go island hopping. With so many islands so close, you can easily visit lots of them.
Getting from island to island is pretty simple. You can charter a boat, book a spot on a tour, or take a ferry or water taxi. These island excursions are a great way to take part in the iconic Bahamas activity, swimming with pigs at Big Mayor Cay, Exumas.
The Bahamas offers a calmer nightlife than Jamaica, but you can still find plenty of fun choices. The islands have everything from casinos to popular bars like Senor Frog’s, the Daiquiri Shack, and the Tiki Bikini Hut.
Jamaica has great landmarks and historic sites as well. You can visit Spanish Town Square, Rose Hall Great House, and National Heroes Park to see glimpses of the past. When it’s time to get a little more adventurous, explore the jungle and mountains. Go ziplining, hiking, river rafting, and swimming in waterfalls.
Jamaica also has better shopping options. You can find incredible locally made gifts and souvenirs at The Shoppes at Rose Hall in Montego Bay and the Kingston craft market.
If you’re looking for a livelier nightlife scene, then Jamaica is the place for you. There’s always a good party and plenty of hot spots for a good drink and some dancing. Remember to stop by Collette’s Bar and Floyd’s Pelican Bar; you won’t be disappointed.
Both The Bahamas and Jamaica are good choices for fishing. They each have excellent deep-sea fishing options, but if you’re looking specifically for billfish, then stick to The Bahamas. You can also find boating events and regattas in The Bahamas and Jamaica; just pay attention to the season.
Jamaica vs. Bahamas: The Food
Jamaica and The Bahamas both have incredible food for visitors to enjoy, including lots of delicious seafood.
Jamaica’s national dish is called ackee and saltfish. This dish is a combination of the national fruit (ackee) and salted cod. And of course, you can’t forget the jerk chicken or pork. Plus, Jamaica is home to Red Stripe, a local beer that is popular worldwide.
Bahamas has some similar influences, but the focus here is on southern American and Caribbean influences with a lot of fresh seafood. The most popular seafood here is conch. You can find it in lots of different dishes: salad, fritters, stews and soups. Don’t forget to try lobster, baked crab, and souse, another traditional stew.
When you’re thirsty, the Bahamas is known for coconut water and Switcha, a lemonade-style drink made from limes. There are plenty of rum-based cocktails here, as well as great local beers.
Jamaica vs. Bahamas: Which Is Safer?
The good news is that both Jamaica and The Bahamas are considered safe travel destinations. When it does come down to picking a side, however, The Bahamas is generally considered safer.
The U.S. government has travel advisories for different areas around Jamaica. This doesn’t mean the entire island is unsafe, just that travelers should be careful and stay out of certain areas. The Bahamas is only noted as a place to exercise caution (in other words, be aware of your surroundings and make safe travel decisions).
Now that you’ve read our comparison of Jamaica vs. Bahamas, which would you choose? Let us know in the comments. And if you’d like help planning your trip, feel free to reach out to one of our trusted travel advisors.
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